Are Tornado Sirens Needed in Ector County?

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

GARDENDALE - It wasn't a tornado siren that warned Craig DeArmond that one was coming. It was the sound of the tornado itself.

"There was a massive amount of wind and a lot of suction," he said. "Just lasted about, seemed like, 10-15 seconds."

That EF2 tornado stretched for only a mile and lasted only two minutes but it was enough to leave a telephone pole on DeArmond's roof and half of his home ripped apart on Sunday night.

Many other Gardendale residents are now picking up the pieces and wanting a siren alert system.

Midland County told NewsWest 9 they have sirens for the city but Ector County said they don't have any because tornados are scarce in the area and because they don't have the money to put sirens all over the county.

"There's a lot of areas that we can spend the money a whole lot more effectively than we could right now in a county-wide siren alert system," Ector County Emergency Management Coordinator, Stan Tinney, said. "Pay close attention to the National Weather Service. They do us a great job."

What's disturbing is that the National Weather Service told NewsWest 9 that Ector County was just under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning and Watch on Sunday night so the sirens wouldn't have picked up the tornado even if they were there.

For now, Gardendale residents said the safety that extra notice would provide is worth the cost.

"I think what the cost of one life would be," DeArmond said.  "I mean, how do you measure that? Neighbors were hurt. You want to think before it breaks about that type of situation because you may be fixing to have a whole bunch of these. You know how that happens."

But emergency officials said there's a cheaper option that residents can have in their own homes.

"We really feel like that the best thing for a homeowner is a weather alert radio in their home," Tinney said. "It's a cheap investment to get you instant notification."

DeArmond, meanwhile, is just thankful that everyone in his family made it out in one piece.

"You just clean up, build again, roll a little bit faster, a little bit harder and just thank God for all that he does," he said.

NewsWest 9 found out weather alert radios can be ordered online for less than $50.